King of Pain An ailing Doug Christie rallied to put a hurting on the Mavericks and help Sacramento close out the series

May 19, 2002

Doug Christie wore ice wraps and heat packs, spent hours hooked
to an electrical stimulation machine and took baths in Epsom
salts and seaweed last week, all to heal various body parts
enough to stay on the floor for the Kings' Western Conference
semifinal series against the Mavericks. Christie, Sacramento's
shooting guard, has spent so much time in the postseason
treating his aches and pains that it's hard to tell if he has a
better chance of earning a championship ring or a
physical-therapy license.

He couldn't have been on the court much more than he was last
Saturday, when he played 50 of a possible 53 minutes in the
Kings' 115-113 overtime road win. That victory, along with a
114-101 win on Monday at home, sent Sacramento on to its first
conference finals. But Christie had supplied a bigger boost last
Friday when he ignored a second-quarter ankle sprain--and the
advice of the Kings' medical staff--and returned after halftime
to help the team to a 125-119 victory in Game 3.

Christie's performances were emblematic of the surprising
toughness Sacramento displayed in the series. With the hard edge
provided by him and backup guard Bobby Jackson, the Kings now
have enough grit to complement their glamour. "A year ago we
probably wouldn't have won games like the two in Dallas," says
center Vlade Divac, "but we've grown up enough to handle it."

While his teammates are feeling grown up, Christie is feeling as
if he's grown old. Besides the ankle, his right foot, both wrists
and lower back were all sore from blows delivered by the Mavs.
"I've got a lot of parts that ache," he says. "Nothing wrong with
the heart, though."

After he turned the ankle in Game 3, Christie headed to the
locker room, and the team announced that he would not return. But
during the third quarter, as he was preparing to go back to the
hotel, he looked at the television monitor and saw teammate Peja
Stojakovic being carried off the floor, also with an ankle
sprain. Christie limped down the tunnel to rejoin the team, then
scored 13 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter to help the
Kings pull away.

As tough as he is, Christie can appear mild-mannered. He taps his
chest and points upward to signal his family during games, raises
his hand dutifully when called for a foul, and with just 205
pounds stretched over his 6'6" frame, he seems in perpetual need
of a meal. While Lakers guard Kobe Bryant looms as the next
assignment for Christie, who was named to the all-defensive
second team this season, he's not touting himself as a Kobe
Stopper. "All you can do is try to keep him in front of you and
get a hand in his face," Christie says. "There's no one thing you
can take away from him, because he can hurt you so many ways."

That's why Christie is a worthy opponent: He knows that being
hurt isn't the same as being beaten. --Phil Taylor

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH Doug inA sprained ankle couldn't stop Christie, who was a driving force in Game 4.

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